Tulips are one of the harbingers of spring, their curled flowers peek up through the ground when the air seems much too cool to support them when they begin to grow. Gardeners who choose to start planting their tulips in the spring are due for a nasty shock, however. Tulips take several months to grow and bloom. You'll need to plan ahead to ensure that your plants will be ready for spring to arrive.
Most tulip bulbs are available for purchase in the fall. The well-prepared gardener will buy tulip bulbs in October, and place those bulbs directly in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 weeks. This forces the bulbs to go into a dormant state, rather than preparing to bloom as soon as they're planted in your garden. In mid- to late December, your tulip bulbs can be planted in your garden. Plant them 6 inches deep in the soil, and keep the bulbs at least 6 inches apart. Tulips are bulb-based plants, meaning that they store their own food underground. You will not need to provide your bulbs with any fertilizer or food. The bulbs will likely bloom in late March. As previously stated, tulips take planning. In fact, they take about 6 months to grow.
After your tulips have bloomed, you can cut down the stalk of the flower to the ground, but allow the green leaves to die off naturally. They will wither, turn yellow and die back to the ground where they can easily be scraped away. Once your foliage has completely died back, dig up your tulips for the winter. Place them in a box in a cool, dark location for the wintertime. Remember to pull those bulbs out of their hiding place in October and place them in the refrigerator once more for the best results.